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Last Active Nuclear Reactor in Japan Turned Off

Japan's final active nuclear plant was switched off on Saturday with fanfare, banner-waving and celebration by marchers in Tokyo.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 5/6/2012, 5:43 PM

Anti-nuke march in Tokyo
Anti-nuke march in Tokyo
Reuters

Japan's final active nuclear plant was switched off on Saturday with fanfare, banner-waving and celebration by anti-nuke activist marchers in Tokyo.

For the first time in 40 years, the country is using electricity generated solely by non-nuclear power plants, following the shutdown of the last reactor at the Hokkaido Tomari plant by the Hokkaido Electric Power Company late Saturday.

Of three reactors at the plant, two had already been shut down. The country had once relied on a total of 54 nuclear reactors, prior to last year's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and massive 23-foot tsunami.

Four reactors in the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were severely damaged and sent into partial meltdown. They were ultimately subsequently decommissioned as a result of the disaster.

The March 2011 disaster eventually brought the anti-nuclear movement into new popularity in the island nation. Not one nuclear reactor that was shut down for a checkup or maintenance since then has been allowed to be restarted, due to concerns over public safety.

Prior to the disaster, more than a third of Japan's electric power was provided by nuclear energy.

The country has since passed new legislation requiring reactors to pass tests proving they can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. In addition, local residents living around each plant must approve each start-up.

A USGS report published this past February confirmed that radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster was discovered in at least 30 sites around the United States. The report, released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, showed that radioactive Iodine 131, radioactive Cesium 134 and Cesium 137 were detected in precipitation collected at monitoring sites, most of them along the West Coast, in the central and northern Rocky Mountain States, and the eastern United States.

The elements were first detected at these locations a year ago, in the weeks following the nuclear accident. The levels measured this year were similar to those detected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a recent study that mirrored the weeks following the earthquake, in the same locations. The radioactivity that leaked from the plant had escaped into the atmosphere, as well as into the waters of the nearby Pacific Ocean and the soil surrounding the plant.